Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bird Beaks

This year is quite busy.  I am now running sessions for all six grades (K-5), so I find it hard to take photographs while running the sessions and on a day to day basis, just getting stuff written  down for the blog.  So I apologize being so slow.

We ran a Life Processes session for the third grade a couple of weeks ago.  This is the second time I have run this session.  It certainly went better this year than last.  Here is the relevant section of the third grade standards requirements for Virginia:

The student will investigate and understand that behavioral and physical adaptations allow animals to respond to life needs. Key concepts include
a)     methods of gathering and storing food, finding shelter, defending themselves, and rearing young; and 
b)  hibernation, migration, camouflage, mimicry, instinct, and learned behavior.

I divided this activity into three parts.  There are similar exercises that you can find on the web:  1) Fetch!  "Eat Like a Bird" and 2) The Wonder of Birds.  First, I put out gathered materials that could be used as "food" for the birds.  I try and find what I have around the house, but used:  marbles, small rubber erasers, various sizes of dried beans, rubber bands, puffy balls, small rocks, hacky sack balls, plastic eggs, jar with tubes of water, and old logs, and seed pods.  I scattered the food and put some of the food in a tub of water.

We had the kids divided into groups of four.  Each group was then given an assigned "beak".  The beaks included: fork, spoon, chop sticks, toothpick, water dropper, and a straw.  For the first part of the activity, the kids were directed to come one person per team at a time and get one piece of food.  They were not to try and spend much time, but come up, get the food, and "fly back to their nest" with it.  Each team member had a chance to go.

We then discussed how things went and they were to try and decide what kind of bird their beak might represent.  The general consensus was:

fork:  water bird such as a spoonbill or flamingo that filters its food
spoon:  water bird that scoops its food such as a duck
chop sticks:  can be various birds such as a crow, blue jay, etc.
toothpick: small bird such as a small woodpecker or nuthatch
straw:  not a very effective beak, no real correlation
water dropper:  hummingbird

We then talked a little about how beaks were adapted for specific environments.  Next, we gave the kids an opportunity to design their own beaks.  They could select from the materials provided in the first activity, plus they could use rubber bands.

Once the kids had build their beaks, we reran the previous exercise with their own beaks. 

In the third part of the activity, we cleared the table of most food and left just a few things that the kids tended not to try and pick up and ran the exercise one last time.

We then discussed what happened.  In general, the kids tried to design a beak that allowed them to pick up the most diverse sets of food.  They all tended to pick up things out of the water first.  We then discussed what implications it had when we removed much of the food.  The answers to the food removal causes were:  seasonal changes, weather changes such as massive storms such as hurricanes, droughts, and a dying out of a food source due to environmental changes.  Finally, we discussed what strategies were available to the birds to overcome the food scarcity.  The strategies that we discussed were migration and adaptation.

The kids loved this exercise, and I think they got a lot out of it.  If you are interested, contact me and I can send you the writeup.

No comments:

Post a Comment